All right, folks, in light of the fact that I’ve utterly devoured this series over the past week or so, we’re rolling this out in one large post filled with mini-reviews (…or at least, mini-ish). The Cradle series by Will Wight is an utter delight. It’s no literary paragon, but by god it’s fun. Sometime you just want to see someone gradually become excessively powerful with some stellar anime-esque fight scenes. Look, you can’t tell me it’s not awesome to see a giant flaming turtle battle a sea serpent. You just can’t.
I love me some prosey literary stuff. But I also love me some quick, easy, action-filled reads. You want a character who starts from the bottom and works their way up to going toe-to-toe with Dreadgods that rain destruction across continents? My friend, you’ve got it. Cradle is a popcorn book series through and through, giving the reader the same kind of enjoyment as binging a show on Netflix. If that’s what you like, you’ll love this series. If that’s not your jam, consider looking elsewhere.
Review for the first two books of Cradle available here. In general, books three through six have very similar styles and themes when compared to the first two. If you think you’ll enjoy Unsouled and Soulsmith, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the rest – and vice versa!
As a heads’ up, the reviews contained here WILL contain spoilers for previous books! I am also working on putting together a collection of summaries for each of the books. They are still incomplete, but I will be updating them regularly. In the meantime, the reviews below may help jog your memory. 🙂
Finally! Lindon picks a proper magical path beyond “my path is that I’ve split my cores.” He has a year left to prepare for his battle with the Highgold. Jai Long, who he made an enemy of back in Soulsmith. In the training scenario our oh-so-smug Underlord Eithan cooks up, Lindon and Yerin start truly becoming a team. Lindon gets to a point that he’s useful in a fight, meets his dear ol’ turtle bud, and the Sylvan Riverseed (who I’ve been rooting for essentially since Lindon picked her up in Unsouled) finally gets to shine. Blackflame has great pacing with a plot that’s consistently amping up across the course of the book.
Eithan is fabulous. He first appears back in Soulsmith, but we start to see even more of him in Blackflame. He’s mysteriously powerful and tends to consistently act like the cat who got the cream. I’m sure I’ll be overusing “fun” in these reviews, but damn – he’s fun.
“There’s an old saying about asking forgiveness rather than permission,” Eithan said, “but the essence of it is, ‘I’m going to do what I want.’”
Blackflame is the book where I really started rooting for Yerin and Lindon to just get it over with and kiss already. While I do enjoy the semi-platonic companionship they have now, I really really want some damn romance happening here.
If you’re fond of animal/spirit companions, you’re gonna have a good time. Orthos is, as mentioned earlier, a giant flaming turtle. He’s essentially the slightly insane but very encouraging grandpa we all deserve. Little Blue, the Sylvan Riverseed, by contrast is much calmer and very kind. She’s more of a pet compared to Orthos, but she’ll grow more in later books.
Skysworn, alas, is the awkward middle child of the series. While I still definitely had a great time reading this, the pacing was more than a little off. Based on my understanding, Wight tried to rush this book out a bit to appease the fans who were clawing at him for more Cradle (he’s self-published), which caused the book to suffer a bit.
Lindon’s fight with Jai-Long, which really ought to have been a climactic event, instead happens near the start of the book. It’s a great fight, still plenty of popcorn and action, but lacks the impact it could have had were it framed more appropriately.
The Dreadgods are introduced a bit more thoroughly in this book, as we see a hint of the destruction to come. This ups the ante present in previous books, with threats on a larger scale than ever encountered before.
A third character, Mercy Akura is introduced. Mercy hails from the legendary Akura clan, who boasts a Monarch and a very large treasury. At first glance, Mercy seems merely a cheerful young girl who’s just a tad bit clumsy. She quickly befriends both Lindon and Yerin.
This book serves primarily to move us along towards Ghostwater and Underlord and does so in an effective and entertaining fashion, if perhaps not in the most polished or well organized manner.
Ghostwater brings back the Will Wight we knew in Blackflame, with the pacing once more on point and the book significantly more polished. Orthos becomes a much, much more developed character, as does Little Blue. Lindon has the makings of a menagerie in this one, acquiring yet another small companion – a little magical AI named Dross.
Dross provides just the right amount of snarky comic relief the series needed. Comedic characters often run the risk of being overly juvenile, but I’m happy to say that I didn’t feel Dross fell into this trap. Instead, most of his commentary consists of hilariously back-handed compliments. He understands how to phrase things “politely,” but hasn’t quite managed to learn to censor the actual content of his words…
“You’ve got quite a complicated soul, don’t you? Two cores, I feel like that’s an unusual number. And I can see your face so much more clearly now! It’s…well, at least you have a wonderful spirit. Yes, indeed. That spirit of yours, wow.”
Orthos shines as a partner for Lindon, as well. It would have been easy to write him as a strong character who overtakes and uses Lindon for his own ends, but that’s not the case at all. He supports Lindon completely and utterly, encouraging him and believing in him. Even when Lindon is out of ear-shot, Orthos doesn’t have a single bad word to say about him. Lindon is his partner, and they’re in it together for the long haul.
“No, sure, I understand that, but what do you think his odds really are? Ten to one? A hundred to one? Maybe just two to one?” Orthos locked his eyes on the purple-lit gem. “One hundred percent.”
Yerin takes a slight back seat in this novel, but not to worry… she’ll return in full force in Underlord. She and Mercy spend the majority of the novel looking to save Lindon, who is trapped in a pocket dimension: Ghostwater, an old testing lab previously used by the Monarch, Northstrider.
My only real complaint about this book is that it did feel like Lindon had a lot handed to him. In the Ghostwater facility, he discovers various elixirs in enormous quantities that allow him to train and advance at truly insane paces. Lindon lucking out and having power handed to him has been a theme throughout, but I’ll confess I found it to be a little more egregious in this installment vs the previous books.
I hate this book because it’s the last fix of Cradle I’ll have until 2020. It’s downright unfair. This is why I should wait for series to be finished – I’m an addict and now my drug of choice has run out. It’s truly a tragic situation.
Underlord is excellent, and I would venture to say it’s the best book yet in the Cradle series. Between Lindon, Yerin, and Mercy, this book is an excellent ride. While I saw most of the twists coming, I still had a fantastic and fun time with it.
Yerin finally is forced to accept her Bloodshadow and the connection she has to the Bleeding Phoenix, one of the four Dreadgods, and work towards bringing it under her control. Naturally, Eithan is incredibly supportive, providing her with various options and strategies for controlling and using it.
“Take your time deciding. Just because two techniques are relatively common and one is the legendary power of a Sage doesn’t make one better than the others.”
We also learn more about how one advances from Truegold to Underlord – it’s a process requiring a personal insight and acceptance of a truth about oneself. Both Yerin’s and Lindon’s were easy enough to guess at, but Mercy’s was unexpected.
The overall plot of the book deals with a tournament being put on by the world’s monarchs, which encourages the young Underlords of the realm to hone themselves and prove who is the best of the best. The Akura family opens up their personal training ground to the Sheisin Kingdom and the Blackflame Empire, who compete against one another for spots in the tournament. The final teams may not be exactly as you expect, but they set things up for a very interesting seventh book, which I’m definitely looking forward to.